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Tue June 15 2021

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Global contest targets sustainable concrete

18 May The Global Cement & Concrete Association (GCCA) is launching a competition to find and support the most innovative start-ups that are tackling the challenges of improving sustainability in the sector.

The Open Challenge is a global programme intended to bring together tech start-ups and the cement and concrete industry to help accelerate the development of new low-carbon technologies. The winners will enter 12-month programme with access to expertise and investment.

The competition invites start-ups to pitch solutions to key challenges for the industry that require advanced technology, support, and investment and which will have a significant impact on the climate footprint of cement and concrete. The challenge areas include carbon capture technologies, carbon use in the construction supply chain, improved recycling of concrete and calcination technologies - for heating materials during the concrete manufacturing process.

GCCA said that the industry’s decarbonising mission is vital because the world will need concrete to meet the challenges it faces, including providing safe homes, cities, and a sustainable built environment. Population growth and urbanisation will also mean a greater requirement for critical infrastructure to support resilient communities around the world as well as the global shift to clean and renewable energy such as wind and hydropower.

Dinah McLeod, GCCA chief executive, said: “Concrete is the most widely used, material on the planet, after water. Our members have committed to drive down the CO2 footprint of the industry’s operations and products, and to deliver on our ambition of carbon neutral concrete by 2050. However, this ambitious goal will require significant and complex changes in how we manufacture, use and recycle concrete. Innovation will be crucial at every stage, from new cement and concrete chemistries to kiln technologies, clinker production, and carbon capture. This Open Challenge will help ensure we are bringing the creativity of the best minds from outside the industry to tackle the climate emergency.”

GCCA and the leading cement and concrete companies it represents have committed to use their resources to help start-ups bring innovation from the pilot stage to commercialisation as part of their work towards realising the industry’s global climate ambition to provide carbon-neutral concrete by 2050.

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GCCA is working with Techstars, a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs, to source start-ups for the challenge. After the initial sourcing phase, experts from GCCA member companies will partner directly with selected start-ups to develop their technologies, usng their network, world- expertise and facilities as well as potential investment to bring them closer to commercialisation

Claude Loréa, GCCA cement director and innovation lead added: “We are calling on start-ups, researchers and innovators from around the world to work with us to address the most challenging areas in decarbonising concrete and cement. With the help of Techstars, we’re looking forward to matching outside innovation with industry expertise, which we hope can accelerate the sustainable transformation of the industry. From carbon capture and storage pilots to using CO2 to produce new construction materials, this is a chance to be at the forefront of these innovations which will help the industry to build on its achievement of reducing CO2 emissions by 19% per tonne over the last 30 years.”

GCCA member companies may also consider offering direct investment in select start-ups, though there is no investment requirement for participation in the challenge.

The challenge will be run by the GCCA innovation programme, Innovandi. Launched in 2019, Innovandi also leads the Global Cement & Concrete Research Network. The network includes 40 leading global scientific and academic institutions as well as 30 industry partners, from equipment suppliers to admixture producers and academics.

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